Scott remains unmoved about rail

TALLAHASSEE -- Federal transportation officials are in talks with Gov. Rick Scott’s office over a potential deal to salvage a high-speed rail project.

But Scott has not moved from his position that a deal cannot be structured to remove financial risk to the state.

“Nothing in the discussions so far alleviates the governor’s concerns that Florida’s state taxpayers would still be on the hook,” spokesman Brian Hughes said.

U.S. Department of Transportation officials began discussions with staff in Scott’s office on Tuesday and they continued Wednesday.

Officials are trying to keep the talks under wraps, given the politically sensitive nature. Neither the governor’s office nor the DOT would say who is involved.

A coalition of federal, state and local officials have until Friday to come up with a plan to save the $2.4 billion in federal funding.

The proposal calls for local governments, including Tampa and Orlando, to form a partnership that would take responsibility (and the federal money) for putting the project out to bid. Proponents think they can structure the deal so that a private company would guarantee there be no financial risk to the state.

But Scott and other critics think that is impossible. The state DOT would have to provide technical assistance.